Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Reach regulation on chemicals comes into effect

Reach regulation on chemicals comes into effect

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (153/07) issued by The Government News Network on 31 May 2007

The REACH Regulation on the management and control of chemicals comes into force tomorrow, 1 June. REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals, is aimed at ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment, as well as improving industry competitiveness and innovation.

Jeff Rooker, Minister of Sustainable Farming and Food said:
"REACH is an important step forward. It is good news for the environment and health, and it should also assist industry. But industry needs to make sure that it is gearing up so it can make full use of the pre-registration opportunity next year. We will be working with our partners, especially in the UK Competent Authority, part of the Health and Safety Executive, to do all that we can we can to make sure that industry hears the message about REACH, and particularly about pre-registration."

REACH sets in place measures for industry to provide evidence of any chemical risks and will make sure everyone in the supply chain knows how to use them safely. It will encourage innovation as it removes the significantly greater administrative burdens that newly-developed substances have faced in the past. The law also contains robust drivers to substitute the most hazardous substances, so that where there is a suitable safer alternative, REACH will make sure that industry uses it.

Although REACH comes into effect on 1 June 2007, the first major milestone for business is 1 July 2008 - the beginning of a six month window when chemical manufacturers can pre-register their products - a very simple process. But if they miss the window they will have to go through the much more involved registration process straightaway.

A helpline has been set up by the UK Competent Authority for REACH. Businesses can obtain advice on how it will affect them and what they need to do to comply. The helpdesk can be contacted on 0845 4089575 or UKREACHCA@hse.gsi.gov.uk. The UK Government REACH website is at http://www.hse.gov.uk/reach

Notes to editors:
1. The main elements of REACH are:
* Registration requires industry to obtain relevant information on chemical substances produced or supplied above 1 tonne a year and to use that data to manage the chemicals safely. The need to register comes into force on 1 June 2008. However, if a producer pre-registers before 1 December 2008 registration is spread over the 11 years to 2019, depending on the tonnage produced.
* Evaluation provides the opportunity for regulators to assess whether the information provided by industry is sufficient and that they have applied the right risk management measures.
* Authorisation controls the use of substances of highest concern. Here a substance with the most hazardous properties, such as those that cause cancer would be subject to a ban unless industry can demonstrate that the risks are properly controlled or that there are socio-economic benefits outweighing the risks. Authorisation contains strong drivers to substitute hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives.

2. Under REACH, manufacturers, importers, distributors and professional users who market or use chemicals must ensure that they are registered with the new European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki, which will oversee the operation of the Regulation throughout the EU. This will require information about the characteristics and hazards, if any, associated with a chemical. Those chemicals that pose a serious hazard may be banned (i.e. restricted), or may be used only following the grant of a specific 'authorisation'.

3. Around 100,000 different substances are on the EU's list of existing chemicals, of which around 30,000 are thought to be manufactured or imported in quantities above 1 tonne. Adequate information on their environmental and health effects is available for only a small proportion of these chemicals.

4. The EU chemicals industry employs around 1.7m people directly plus another 3m indirectly. It generates around £238bn per year, resulting in a trade surplus of around £25bn. In the UK, it is worth £49bn per year with a trade surplus of £4.3bn.

5. The current regulatory system for dealing with existing substances, in place since 1994, has been too slow to produce results. In its first 10 years of operation it has identified 141 chemicals of high concern; however, risk assessments have only been completed on around 71.

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